If the golden generation of boys killed in the Great War had survived, Nicholson suggests, the odds are that their women would have gone on much as before, becoming wives and mothers. The classically educated empire-builders who were slaughtered in the trenches showed little sign of sponsoring women’s liberation. Demographic disaster forced social change. The Surplus Women included spectacular success stories, such as the colonial historian Marjory Perham or the archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson, both of whom found freedom in travel. Gertrude Maclean, spinster aunt, ‘a rock and a sport’, founded Universal Aunts, the agency which became the lifestyle consultants of the 1920s. My favourite is Caroline Haslett, spinster engineer, who liberated women from household drudgery by pioneering the application of electricity to washing and dusting and
cleaning. Nicholson’s conclusion is upbeat. In spite of the loneliness and the heartache, the Surplus Women were the first generation to prove that women can survive without men. Virginia Nicholson has found a wonderful subject. The virtue of her book is that she doesn’t attempt to generalise or theorise or preach, but allows the women to speak for themselves. Taking the life stories of a sample of women, she skilfully weaves them into her narrative, and the result is not an arid social history but a book packed with human interest, elegant and funny and a compelling read. Today, more women are choosing to remain single than ever before. The difference is that they are in control of their lives, in a way that their great-grandmothers of ninety years ago most certainly were not. To order this book at £16, see LR Bookshop on page 37
DAVIDCESARANI ROTTEN APPLES
THELUCIFEREFFECT: HOWGOODPEOPLE TURNEVIL
★By Philip Zimbardo (Rider 551pp £18.99)
BYNOWWEare all too familiar with the ghastly images that came out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004. But no one was more appalled than Philip Zimbardo, emeritus professor of psychology at Stanford University. They brought back to him chilling memories of the experiment he had conducted at Stanford thirty-three years earlier. To his horror, the behaviour of the guards seemed exactly to replicate what occurred in a basement of the university when he simulated conditions in a prison. Before long he was approached to act as an expert witness on behalf of one of the military policemen accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners. In The Lucifer Effect Zimbardo recounts the Stanford Prison Experiment and goes on to record his investigation of the real abuses that happened in Abu Ghraib. It is an absorbing work, packed with insight into human behaviour and streetwise observations that go back to his childhood in the South Bronx. Zimbardo rejects the polarity of good versus evil and the common tendency to essentialise each to the
NEW AUTHORS PUBLISH YOUR BOOK – ALL SUBJECTS INVITED Have you written a book, and are you looking for a publisher? Athena Press is a publisher dedicated to the publishing of books mainly by first time authors. While we have our criteria for accepting manuscripts, we are less demanding than the major blockbuster and celebrity driven publishing houses, and we will accept a book if we feel it can reach a readership.
exclusion of the other. Rather, he sees the potential for good and evil within everyone. He also rejects the notion that people are predisposed towards one or the other by virtue of genes, character, or pathology. Instead of explaining deviance by looking for the ‘bad apples’ in a neutral barrel, he maintains that a bad barrel makes the apples go rotten. The barrel is ‘the System’ that creates ‘the Situation’ in which good people do terrible things. And it is the ‘power elite’ that creates ‘the System’. This theory was based on his observations during the infamous 1971 prison experiment. Over six days, a group of student volunteers from Stanford role-played prisoners and guards in a basement converted into a jail. Within twenty-four hours some of the ‘prisoners’ were rebelling against the ‘rules’ and the ‘guards’ were already acting abusively towards them. By day five the experiment was getting out of control. The guards were humiliating the ‘inmates’ who were themselves beginning to exhibit pathologically craven behaviour. On the eighth day Zimbardo aborted the experiment. He was finally unnerved by an assistant who protested that he was becoming an accomplice to degradation and sadism. What had happened? The recruits were young men with no prehistory of psychotic or criminal behaviour, but when they were assigned their respective roles they were given uniforms that conferred anonymity. Stripped of their identities they were freed from prior inhibitions and cut from the moorings of normality. Destructive emotional and cognitive changes rapidly followed. The guards were empowered to denigrate the prisoners who, rendered powerless, began
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LITERARY REVIEW August 2007